Ah, bedtime. That sweet, sweet hour when you pack the kiddos off to dreamland and you get some much-needed "me time." Right? Well, sometimes. Bedtime can also be one of the most stressful times of day. There are a lot of tasks (cleaning up, pajama time, teeth-brushing) packed into an intense period of time, and often when kids know that their dark bedroom awaits, the stalling tactics, whining or worse can crop up, resulting in a battle of wills that is anything but dreamy.
Developing a bedtime ritual is something nearly every baby expert and pediatrician recommends. Children rely on ritual and stability, and it's a huge comfort to them to repeat the same actions every night before bed.
You can treat this time of day as a series of hurdles to jump over before the big relief or decide to turn bedtime into a series of sweet moments to cherish daily. Here are our favorite ideas for bedtime rituals that everyone in the family will take comfort in.
1. Come Up With Some Buzz Words: Pick a word or phrase that signals the start of bedtime. It can be silly, it can be cozy or simply utilitarian. But hearing the same words, like "jammy time," or "drivers, start your toothbrushes!" every night will signal to your children that another day has ended and bedtime begins now.
2. Pick a Theme Song For Bedtime:
Cue up your iPod with a soothing, nightime tune to signal the start of winding-down time. Obviously, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is a good choice. For something more contemporary but still as mellow, James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" has a nice bedtime feel to it, as does the late Pete Seeger's "You Are My Sunshine."
Putamayo's Instrumental Dreamland is another soothing favorite.
3. Create a Bedtime Library:
A small shelf of pre-selected bedtime books will cut out the quarreling about what to read before bed. Margaret Wise Brown's Bunny's Noisy Book is a sweet one. So is her classic Goodnight Moon. The House in The Night is a newer book that also sets the tone for sleepytime beautifully.
4. Put A Surprise Under Their Pillow: It needn't be something spectacular, just a favorite toy or small book to page through, but the excitement of knowing a surprise is waiting for them might be just the thing to get them running to hop in bed.
5. Bedtime Massage:
For younger kids and babies, a little skin-to-skin love with lightly scented lotion or oil can start to unwind their bodies and help get them ready to relax. Lavender and chamomile scents are gentle and sleep-inducing.
6. Say Goodnight To The Moon And Stars: A quick gaze out the window, or a walk outside in warm weather to truly absorb the moon and stars can help your kids really grasp the idea of nighttime while taking in a bit of natural beauty before bed.
7. Sum Up The Day: Make a ritual of reviewing the day--whether you all choose to share one thing that made your day great, or your favorite part of your day, it's a nice way to take a moment to reflect together.
8. Gear Up For Tomorrow: If your kids are old enough to not get too revved up thinking about the next day, you can pick out clothes for the following day, or share exciting plans to look forward to. Sometimes the comfort of what's to come, especially if it's something great, is enough to encourage them to want to go to sleep.
9. Spin Your Own Tale: An ongoing made-up-by-mom-or-dad bedtime story can make getting tucked in the best part of the day. If you're really great at telling tales, you can keep a story going for weeks or months at a time, creating a world that exists only at bedtime.
10. Send Them To Sleep In Good Company:
Soothing music and light can soften the blows of darkened rooms at bedtime. Choose a nightlight or nighttime toy that plays a gentle tune and gives them something to focus on as they drift off to sleep. CloudB's Twilight toys are popular choices.
Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?